Behind the Magic of ‘Once Upon a Studio’: An Exclusive Interview with the Creators and Producers

TOOT TOOT! – In Walt Disney Animation Studios’ new short film “Once Upon a Studio,” CG characters like Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps from 2016’s “Zootopia” cavort with hand-drawn favorites like Tiana and Louis from 2009’s “The Princess and the Frog,” among others. In fact, 543 beloved characters come together for a joyful and emotional reunion as they assemble for a spectacular group photo to mark Disney’s 100th anniversary. Written and directed by Dan Abraham and Trent Correy and produced by Yvett Merino and Bradford Simonsen, “Once Upon a Studio” makes its broadcast debut on ABC on Oct. 15, 2023. © 2023 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

In a magical reunion that celebrates Disney’s 100th anniversary, “Once Upon a Studio” brings together a star-studded ensemble of beloved characters from Walt Disney Animation Studios. Directed and written by Dan Abraham and Trent Correy, with production by Yvette Marino and Bradford Simonsen, this delightful short film features 543 Disney characters from over 85 films. They come together in all-new hand-drawn and CG animation to commemorate a century of storytelling, artistry, and technological advancements.

Dan Abraham, one of the creative minds behind this enchanting project, humorously expressed his extensive knowledge of Disney. When asked about discovering something new about Disney, he playfully responded, “I honestly can’t think of anything I learned. I mean, I’m that big of a nerd. I’ve got this Disney Rolodex in my head, and it’s my one superpower. Thank God it finally came in handy for ‘Once Upon a Studio.'”

The production of “Once Upon a Studio” was a monumental effort, involving voice recordings from a multitude of characters. Trent Correy explained the process, saying, “We did about 40 plus original voice recordings over the course of about two months. Sometimes we’d have a day where we had like six or seven people, but that’s all you can kind of squeeze in.” These recording sessions became moments of reflection for the actors, reminiscing about their time working on the original films. Dan Abraham added, “They would talk about their experience of working on those original films and working with the animators and working with Disney and how much that meant to them.”


Disney’s enduring ability to make us feel like children again, regardless of our age, was a point of discussion. Dan Abraham highlighted the importance of striking a balance, stating, “For every laugh, there should be a tear, as Walt Disney used to say. We wanted there to be that balance. We wanted to have our Walt and Mickey moment that makes you stop and reflect, but also reflect the humor that’s abundant in Disney movies.”

The writing of the characters’ lines was a meticulous process, focused on staying true to their personalities. Trent Correy emphasized, “We always wrote to the character. Every line was very carefully character-driven, as all the comedy and jokes as well.”

When asked about favorite characters or moments in the film, Dan Abraham expressed his love for Eeyore’s line, “maybe we’ll try again in another hundred years.” He also shared their commitment to preserving the original voices, such as Bobby Driscoll’s for Peter Pan, to evoke a sense of nostalgia.

The interview delved into the editing process, as they had to trim the short film to a manageable length. Dan Abraham humorously explained, “At some point, you have to make something that you can actually produce. We kept constantly trying to add more characters to what we already had. But the more time you have, the more expensive things get, and the more people you need.”

As for the question of the studio setting in the short film, Brad Simonsen clarified that while some parts were synthetic, many shots were carefully constructed to achieve the desired look.

With the astonishing number of characters in “Once Upon a Studio,” Yvette Marino confirmed that every Disney feature, from Snow White to the most recent films, was represented. The number of characters per project varied, but at least one character from each film made it into the grand assembly.

In response to the final question about the most important character in the short, Yvette Marino humorously pointed to the iconic mouse, Mickey. Meanwhile, Brad Simonsen couldn’t help but echo the sentiment. Disney’s beloved characters truly came together to make “Once Upon a Studio” a heartwarming celebration of a century of Disney magic.

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